The Philadelphia Eagles announced today that Joe Banner has been relieved of his duties as team president.
In what the Eagles term a “front office succession plan,” Banner will now serve as strategic advisor to the owner – but Banner expects that to be a temporary title while he pursues another opportunity in the world of sports.
In as new team president is Don Smolenski, who had been serving as the Eagles’ chief operating officer. Smolenski will handle the day-to-day operation of the team, while Howie Roseman continues as GM, dealing with player contracts and on-the-field personnel issues.
Jeffrey Lurie, who will have more to say at a 2:30pm press conference today, had this to say about Banner:
“There is no better executive in sports than Joe Banner. We are making this announcement today because he is looking for a greater challenge, and in Don Smolenski I have a highly regarded, very worthy successor as president of this team…Joe and I have achieved a great deal since I acquired the team. From building Lincoln Financial Field and the NovaCare Complex, to driving the work of the Eagles Youth Partnership and, of course, our successes on the field, Joe has been an integral part of everything we have done.”
For his part, Banner said “it has been my privilege to work with Jeffrey Lurie over all these years. Together we have built a talented front office team that is now ready to assume leadership of this extraordinary franchise. I plan to pursue a major new opportunity within the sports field – one that will enable me to apply all that I have learned as the Eagles president. I could never thank Jeff enough for the opportunity and support he has afforded me.”
There had been persistent reports that Banner and head coach Andy Reid were locked in a power struggle. Reid, who gets to stay, was deferential and yet somewhat backhanded in his compliment, saying “as I have stated before, the success of the team is most often credited to the players and coaches, but without the support and hard work of the front office, led by Joe Banner, we would not have achieved all that we accomplished.”
Back in October when the Eagles were 1-4, in my From Where I Sit series, I questioned whether the Eagles were following the definition of insanity, by doing the same thing over and over again while expecting different results. In that piece, I questioned retaining both Banner and Reid.
There is a major clue as to why it’s Banner who is gone, based on a comment by Lurie intended to praise Smolenski, but at the same time implying that Banner’s relationship with the Eagles’ fans and business partners left something to be desired:
“We are all happy to see Don ascend to his new role leading the Eagles organization. Throughout his 14-year Eagles career, Don has been a model of hard work, good will, and sound judgment. I am confident that, with Don at the helm, the relationship between the Eagles, our fans and business partners is in very good hands.”
And so it goes.
From a Philly sports fan’s perspective, so many times over the last five years or so, the Eagles seemed to try very hard to divert attention from the Phillies. With the Phillies now in the midst of a season-high 5 game losing streak, that diversion is – for once – welcomed.